Tourism in Cuba in the First Half of 2022: From Information Manipulation to the Reality and the Inflation that is Causing Harm

In the middle of the week, calm reigned on the beaches of Varadero, which see the presence of Cuban tourists on Saturdays and Sundays. (Roma Díaz)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 21 July 2022 — In the first six months of 2022, according to the National Office of Statistics and Information [ONEI], a total of 987,008 travelers arrived in Cuba, representing an increase of 557.3% over the same period in 2021, which is equivalent to 809,808 more travelers. Of these, there have been 682,411 international visitors, and they represent 596.3% compared to the same period last year. That is, 567,972 more international visitors than in the first half of 2021.

These data indicate that the Cuban tourism sector is growing and that it’s doing so at an important rate, multiplying by five the figures of the previous year. But once again you have to look at the information manipulation campaigns of the communist regime, and in this case, one can only question the data that, triumphantly, the leaders are offering.

And for four reasons.

First, because despite the dynamism that tourism is experiencing worldwide, the results of the last normal year before the pandemic, which was 2019, are still not achieved in Cuba. That year, at the end of the first semester, 2,561,719 visitors had arrived in Cuba, about three times more than this year, 2022, which, although it has improved compared to 2021, was a year of border closures until November, as a result of COVID-19 infections.

Therefore, it’s advisable to be cautious with the figures. The level of tourist activity in these first six months of 2022 barely reaches 27% of the 2019 figure, and that year 4.2 million tourists arrived during the year. The data for 2022 are still not good, and manipulation campaigns have to be considered, even more so when weak months are now coming for Caribbean tourism that coincide with the summer and the hurricane season. Once again, we will have to wait until November to see if the miracle takes place.

Second, because there are significant changes in the composition of tourism. In fact, the arrival of Canadians is activated and already accounts for 31.3% of the total, with 214,122 visitors (six points more than in 2019, for example). But it should be borne in mind that the second block is made up of the Cuban community abroad, which with 151,008 visitors, already accounts for more than a quarter of the total (ten points more than in 2019). And in third place, the United States, which with 40,600 is ahead of the Russians.

Leaders should be aware of this data and be careful when disqualifying and attacking their northern neighbor because they can affect demand preferences. Despite the “embargo/blockade,” tourists from the United States to Cuba outperform those from any European country.

Meanwhile, tourists from the markets of the old continent, despite the rise of traditional powers such as Spain, France or Italy, don’t show special interest in coming to Cuba, or they register growth much below the average, which, in the specific case of the Russians, confirms that the measures of the international community are taking effect.  Only 37,654 Russian tourists arrived in Cuba in the first half of the year.

Third, because other competitive destinations in the Caribbean have been launched so far this year, leaving Cuba far behind in the process of recovering tourism after the pandemic. This is the case of the Dominican Republic, which in the first five months of this year received a spectacular figure of 2,396,864 tourists out of a total of 3,000,000 passengers.

The results of this Caribbean destination once again leave Cuba far behind, almost 71% below, which shows considerable difficulty in growing tourism. Other destinations such as Cancun or Costa Rica also show positive data, which may indicate that Cuba’s tourism policy is not adequate and that it should be reviewed.

Fourth, because the results of this first quarter move the economy away from the objectives of the plan for 2022. And we can’t forget the almost sick relevance that Cuban communists attach to their plan for the economy, which is usually rarely fulfilled. If the results of these six months were doubled, tourism in Cuba at the end of the year would not exceed 1.3 million visitors, a figure that is far removed from the communist regime’s goal of 2.5 million, almost by half.

No. Tourism is not going well in Cuba in 2022. Growth is insufficient to overcome the crisis and has nothing to do with what is happening in other countries in the area that have been able to mobilize their market. The worst thing is that the Cuban private sector, linked to tourism, loses growth opportunities and remains stagnant, waiting for the situation to improve. And now there is inflation.

The inflation of the CPI, for example, of the “Restaurants and Hotels” component directly related to tourism, has confirmed the growing loss of competitiveness of the sector. The prices of this component until May increased by 24.61% year-on-year, two tenths less than the average of 26%. Rising inflation reduces the attractiveness of Cuban tourism and reduces demand. It’s a serious problem that the authorities don’t know how to solve.

The authorities have invested too much in the construction of hotels, and now when it comes time to occupy them, they find that other destinations in the area are more competitive in price because they have been able to tackle inflation with effective measures. Suddenly, in addition, they see that the euro and the dollar are on parity, and any possible attraction of European tourists is dismantled. The Cuban communist leaders have no idea how an economy is run, but they won’t accept this, and their obsession with intervening, planning and controlling economic activity has led to disaster. Likewise, for purposes of manipulation, it’s not good to give figures that are fake. Cuban tourism is a good example of this.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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